Philadelphia Phillies: Why Does Roy Oswalt All of a Sudden Seem an Afterthought?

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Philadelphia Phillies: Why Does Roy Oswalt All of a Sudden Seem an Afterthought?
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Roy Oswalt wishes he got this much attention this offseason. But a creaky back and iffy market has the former Phillie all but forgotten about.

He’s not even the white elephant.

Not only isn’t anybody talking Roy Oswalt, nobody’s thinking him either.

Ask yourself: When you mull over the Phillies' future, what first comes to mind?

Is it the guy who schlepped through a so-so 2011? Or the one you hope will round out your rotation for the rest of your buoyant future (Cole Hamels)? Is it the one with a creaky back who’s only going to get worse? Or the one brought in to fortify the core of your lineup for the foreseeable future (Hunter Pence)?

This is all you need to know: Nobody—NOBODY!—has offered Oswalt anything.

“No one has yet (that we know of) offered Roy Oswalt a contract,” wrote Craig Calcaterra yesterday.

That’s what Oswalt’s been reduced to. In December, Oswalt reportedly fished the waters for a three-year deal. Not even a nibble. That’s now changed, with his asking price coming down considerably to earth: a one-year deal and the neighborhood of $8-9 million.

The market isn’t doing Oswalt any favors. With Hiroki Kuroda’s one-year deal with the Yankees, worth $10 million, Oswalt’s value is deflated by one desperate-for-pitching team.

But you’d have to think Oswalt would factor into the Phillies' plans.

Right?

“Having Oswalt and being able to back a couple of guys up one spot so you have a legitimate sixth starter would make a lot of sense,” scouting guru Keith Law of ESPN told Mike Gill of 97.3 ESPN Radio South Jersey yesterday.

Would you bring back Roy Oswalt on a one-year deal?

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Especially since the cupboard’s all but cleaned-out. The Phillies flipped Baby Aces Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart to Houston in the Pence deal. They bumped Vance Worley, 11-3 and stunning as a starter, to the bullpen for the postseason.

And don’t hold your breath on farm-system reinforcements.

“They have very little depth at the upper levels,” said Law. “They have a lot of good pitching prospects; they’re all in A ball. They don’t have a guy who’s going to be able to step in and be more than just a fringy replacement if they were to lose a starter to injury.”

Trevor May (No. 87 overall, according to ScoutingBook.com, for his time in Single-A Clearwater), Jonathan Pettibone (No. 152, Single-A Clearwater), Phillippe Aumont (No. 180, Triple-A Lehigh Valley)? Not bailing anybody out any time soon.

So why haven’t the Phillies sunk a prayer (and $8 million) into Oswalt?

Why didn’t the Cubs, who dumped $4.5 million into Paul Mahlom (6-14 with a 3.66 ERA for Pittsburgh in 2011) over that and the marginal $3.5 million to meet Oswalt’s ask?

Why hasn’t anybody?

Remember: With the soon-to-be stretched-out playoff bracket, more teams have more opportunities than ever before. That includes fringe teams like Toronto, long buried beneath the big dogs of the AL East.

Do you expect Roy Oswalt to score a one-year deal and $9 million?

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“I think it brings a lot of other teams into play,” Tom Verducci of SI told Gill yesterday“Especially if we’re going to expand the postseason this year and have that second wild card in each league, that begins to bring some other teams into the mix who otherwise might not be in it.”

What gives?

“On the face of it, it seems absurd that he should still be out there and willing to do one year and $8 million. A healthy Roy Oswalt? Yeah, I’ll do that twice over.”

How we should read into the (in)activity: “I have a feeling that we have the market telling us, ‘we don’t like what we see’ in terms of Oswalt’s back.”

Oswalt missed 16 games in 2011 from lower-back pain, aggravated from the time he spent tending to his home after last April’s tornadoes hit Mississippi. He went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 2011, finishing on an uptick with humble-but-reputable monthly performances for August (2-2 with a 3.71 ERA) and September (3-2 with a 3.51 ERA), after sputtering badly in June (1-4 with a 5.81 ERA).

Speculation has the Phillies opting elsewhere.

“I think that train has left,” Jim Sailsbury of CSN Philadelphia told Gill yesterday.

A thought we shouldn't have had to ask for.

Matt Hammond is a producer for 97.3 ESPN Radio Atlantic City, and writes for 973ESPN.com. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattHammond973.

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